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As seen in earlier spy photos, the front end was inspired by the Charger. Mr. Creed says the canted forward grille is meant to make the truck look like a charging ram rushing forward to head butt the competition.

The F-150 inspired the Ram’s body proportions.

“We were pretty impressed with the F-150 when it came out (in 2004), but they did something we thought was a no-no. (Ford) raised the belt line and the box height to give the F-150 great proportions and a hot rod truck look, but made it difficult for people to reach into the bed,” says Mr. Creed.

What was Chrysler’s solution to improve usability accessing the cargo box but still deliver chunkier proportions?

“We raised the belt line but kept the box height the same as the previous Ram. Then we lowered the rocker panel sills and pulled them out, so they completely hide the frame rails at the bottom. That’s how we got our glass to body proportions,” Mr. Creed describes.

Chrysler also blacked out the window frame in the B-pillar to give the Dodge Ram a longer greenhouse look and made crisp character lines on the edges of the dropped front fenders and over the rear wheels.

The top-of-the-line Laramie version gets a newly offered two-tone paint job and unique 20-inch wheels. Both were responses to input from Dodge dealers. Dealers also influenced the design of the rear bumper on 5.7-liter HEMI V8 Rams. Dual exhausts pop out through half-radius curves in the bumper, giving the Ram a clean aftermarket look.

Like General Motors’ full size pickups, the new Ram also has a spoiler built into the top of the tailgate, but it’s not as prominent as the shapely air dam that makes up the top portion of the 2009 Ford F-150’s tailgate. The lift handle has been relocated to the top of the tailgate, in the lip of the spoiler, for better leverage.

Nearly all badges on the Ram are three-dimensional, rather than decals. Large, sculpted Ram emblems adorn the center of the crosshair grille and tailgate. The Ram’s-head badge on the tailgate is 250 percent larger than the previous badge. Internally, the design team calls it “home plate”.

Five distinct trim levels are available, each with a unique appearance: ST, SLT, TRX, Sport and the top-of-the-line Laramie.

Inside it’s a whole new world

It’s hard to describe how much better the interior of the 2009 Dodge Ram is than its predecessor. It’s a spectacular improvement and a giant leap forward in styling and usability in all models. Chrysler execs say the Ram’s new interior has received the highest style ratings of any Chrysler vehicle in focus groups.

The 2009 Ram is the first Chrysler vehicle to follow Chrysler’s new interior design process. Management set aside a lump of money at the start of the program that could only be used for the cabin and nothing else.

“Previously, money for interiors was spread like peanut butter. Around the bread, but as thin as you could get it,” says Mr. Creed.

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